26 August 2010

George & Caplin - secluded malls and scenic byways/requiem for an encyclopedia (2010, Plastic Sound Supply)

George & Caplin is a du from Denver, Colorado, consisting of Jason Fredrick Iselin and Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens,  exploring ambient music but with certain debt towards the psychedelic post-rock  or ambient folk-rock explorations of bands like Scenic or Eleventh Dream Day, not in an obvious manner, it's not even sure they know these bands but they share a common attraction for these desert landscapes often depicted in Cormac McCarthy books.

Their aesthetics also reminds me of the Australian label Camera Obscura and they recognize the influence of artists like Brian Eno, The Stars of the Lid, Scott Walker or the early 4AD catalog of releases.

This is the more recent release, the ninth, for a band stat was created in 2001, so their sonic universe is quite precise and with precisely definite textures and a density which is their own style.

It's a double album but the second part is much more like a bonus CD. Entirely instrumental, it is build around loops, keyboards and other processed drone sounds. The result can recall at times the works of artists like William Basinski or The Stars of the Lid but miss their urgency and fails to really captivate.
The first volume is much more interesting and intriguing. "Giallo", as a nice short instrumental introduction, resembles to a meeting between  the down to earth yes subtle sensitivity of Dust Dive and the ambient works of Brian Eno gone through psychedelic dust.

"Sleep Deep" shares some hints of Paisley Underground (à la Opal or Eleventh Dream Day), develops nice vocal melody with  a floating melancholic expression while the music is carried out with the wind through the plains. The next track, "four", is like a ghostly version of the previous one, which is still haunting the mind.

"Brown Blazer" is a cold frosty morning in the desert, evanescent and ethereal. Whispered intimate vocals on the fragile "Wilderness Eyes", like a male version of Mazzy Star less the power of seduction or like Eleventh Dream Day under sleeping pills, both direction don't give whole clues of the heady beauty contained here. "Pablo and Julia" starts nicely somewhere between This Mortal Coil and the Stars of the Lid but slowly a feeling of dilution invades the track and I lose interest in the last part.

There is a welcome melancholic autumnal urgency with "Two" and an haunting quality which is even more pregnant and darker on "Corduroy and a Leather Button", almost recalling me the "Ghost" album of Third Eye Foundation.  Best place for the next song which starts with an intimate guitar but the overuse of effects on the voice (like a tunnel reverb) make it confuse.

Cowboys are back on the instrumental jam "Franco Cleef Wyoming Reconstruction" and "Motive Two" is an ambient track with a certain orchestral grandeur lost in fog and the last track ends with strange atmospheres of an hypothetic fourth dimension. Three too heterogeneous for a coherent end.

There are some really good things on this album but the duo multiplies the directions and this lack of focus tends to leave us with a blurry idea of this album. There are no obvious project or story or particular field explored which would make this record unique and essential.


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